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Certain works carry forward evidence of past lives: Bessie Harvey’s sculptures call out to ancestral memory through hidden visual storytelling; Mary K. Borkowski’s art illuminates repressed narratives; within the oeuvres of Susan Te Kahurangi King and Yuichiro Ukai, popular characters from multiple contexts persistently resurface.

 

Early American objects like birth and marriage records, mourning pictures, family trees, and needlework samplers, are also especially redolent of memory-keeping—all serving as devices for documenting lives, whether just beginning, ending, or in progress at the time of the object’s making. Although the names and dates have lost much of their personal context outside of the families who created them, as part of the Museum’s collection, these works are now positioned to serve a broader cultural purpose. On public rather than private domestic display, such objects function as powerful symbols of connection to a larger past, evoking the presence of the multiple hands that have made, repaired, and handled them.